Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jamie at Rex in August - revisited.

Over a year ago I did my first triathlon. I was excited to do the same triathlon again in 2010 - good benchmark and get me into gear to train.

But the race was sold out by the time I registered.

So, I immediately signed up for another triathlon on August 22nd (Rex Wellness).
Which I promptly forgot about.

I mean, it didn't totally slip my mind but I wasn't really in any sort of training mode. It felt like I just kinda showed up for this triathlon - nice and low key - an intense workout. My times definitely reflected my lack of training but I am all pumped up now (a little late in the season, admittedly) to do another one. Or two. Ideally a tri that doesn't involve a lake. I've been scared out of the idea of swimming in most lakes in NC thanks to a dead man found in a lake that was the swim site for a tri.

Making friends with the folks in my swim line before the start. Swimming is my strongest leg but I was closer to the front than I expected (#57!) and the women behind me seemed really hard core which made me a little nervous.
Perhaps that's why my hand is over my mouth.
Or I'm just yawning from the 4:15 am wake up.
And I'm off
And I'm outAs suspected, the women behind me were hard core. They both passed me(so much for my friendliness earlier) but my swim rank was 30 overall women and 5 in my aged, I mean, age group.

T1 time for my first triathlon was longer than my swim time. I went from a total wardrobe change to "one outfit fits all sports" tri suit and it makes a difference (though nobody looks good in a tri suit and looking at these pictures raises questions about vanity versus performance).

And I'm off. Again.
Hands down, my run finish was the best part. For starters, I did it with my eyes closed wearing a hard core face.
For seconders, the video below demonstrates how far a little bit of competition can push me to dig a little deeper. Watch how my pace increases when I realize someone is coming up behind me.Catch me if you can.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Western NC Adventure Day Four

Well, here we are day four.  The ConEd ladies are ready to climb.
And today, I grabbed the Golden Ring.  I got to the top of the course.
 Here's  video of the lowering of Jamie.  Note the attempt to do a dance move on the way down.  Shoom-pa-da!

Part Two of the climbing day brought up to a different part of the same rock-face.  I can't remember the name of the "move" we did but I think it was something like a reverse belay that basically involved all five of us kinda climbing at the same time.

Lindsay leads the way.  This allows her to take pictures of us from above.  After Lindsay come Barb.
Followed by Liz.
Note Jamie and Deb still on the ground in the above.  At that point, I still don't think I understood exactly how this was going to work but I was roped in and ready to roll with whatever.  And note below, that Deb & Jamie have started to ascend, so we must have figured something out.
 Liz takes some nice shots
But not the clouds.  Impending storm.  Which means we descend before we finish doing whatever it is we started.

We're drenched.  Again.  But happy and laughing.  Again.
This was a fantastic weekend.  Exactly what Jamie and Barb needed for the same reasons and for their own reasons.  And what better way to confirm a good weekend than with a rainbow?
And what better way to get back to the reality of work on Monday than running into this fellow on the ride home?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Western NC Adventure, Day Three, Evening

The fun did not end on the rocks.   The evening was rich with mini-adventures.  Barb decided she was going to run part of the way back to the campsite so we let her out on the side of the road.  As the remainder of the group was driving back a bunch of inner tubes flew off the back of a truck in front of us.  It was like flying donuts.

We were all pretty smelly upon arrival at the campsite and I was eager for a shower.  I got all the necessary provisions my car, and have even started to strip down a bit (Nothing scandalicious.  My shirt was rank so I just took it off but I had towel wrapped around me plus sports bra).  I had clean clothes in hand and was ready to head to the shower.

Now I just needed to lock up the car (recall the car contained 2 computers, my bike, 2 purses, etc).  But, hmmm, where are my keys?  And come to think of it - where is Barb?  First things first.  My keys.  I started to rummage through my bags.  Nothing.  Of course, as soon as I decided to take things out of the car to look for the keys it started to rain.  Hard.  And at that point Barb was still at large, and it had been long enough where her whereabouts were more of a concern than my keys.

Liz went out on the hunt for Barb.  Who she quickly found happily running towards the campsite. Who didn't want a ride because at this point she was already drenched so why not just finish it out?

Back to my keys.  At this point, I  told the group they had gone missing.  We started to systematically search and remove the contents of the car.   My hope was they were staring me right in the face and all I needed were fresh eyes to spot them.  My fear was I had left them on the ground and they had been washed away by the rain.

Because it was still raining, mind you.  Hard.  And we had another problem.  The sandbox that held our tents (see below) 

Was pretty much a swimming pool.

Our guide made the call that we would break camp and sleep at the outfitters.  This only made the issue of not having my keys worse because there was no way I was going to leave my unlocked car at a campsite.  I considered the possibility of sleeping in the car.  Spooning with my bike and breathing in the aroma of my soggy clothes and smelly unshowered self.  The more likely possibility was to transfer the contents of my car to a car with keys that could go somewhere.

That might have solved the problem for the night but there was still the concern that the only set of spare keys were in my desk at McKinney in Durham.  And the car wasn't going anywhere without those keys.  The fine folks at Swedish Imports warned me that one of the biggest expenses associated with owning this older car was losing the keys.  Replacing them takes much time and much money.

I had flashbacks to a night in CT home from college with my stepmother's borrowed car being somewhere I wasn't supposed to be and realizing I couldn't find the keys.  I returned home at 4am,  $500 poorer sans FOB with only a replacement key to show for, no words to explain my absence and a pretty evil glare from car owner.  At least it wasn't raining that night.

I was about 5 minutes short of a breakdown when Lindsay, ever our guide, discovered the keys here.

And with that, we drove to the Outfitters.  I considered stopping by the Hampton Inn, booking the penthouse, or honeymoon suite or whatever the nicest thing the Hampton Inn has to offer and ordering lots of room service and having the group stay there.  But didn't.  That might have taken the REI and adventure out of "REI Adventure."

The outfitter location is part retail store, with big windows in and that's the part we slept in.  Maybe someone would window shop and decide to purchase our weary, smelly, drenched group.

Take a look at what happens when you reunite campers with outlets and service.  This is bonding.

I did take this opportunity to grab memory cards, compile pics and run a slide show to the tune of James Taylor's "Carolina In My Mind."

The team gathered round my computer and I inadvertently launched the web-cam and snapped a shot.  So, here's the candid.
I really hope this isn't what I look like when I'm looking at the computer (and not on a web-cam).  But then again who is really looking back?  Then, we posed.

And eventually we slept.  I handed out Ambien like candy to the group to assist.  Who needs a comfy dry bed at the Hampton?    Live a little, right? 

(had we stayed at the campsite, the above might have been any of us, drowned in the tent)

Western North Carolina Adventure Day Three Second Climb

Lindsay sets the course
Barb is up first.When you climb you're clipped into the course and harnessed. So, when you "fall" in rock climbing it's more like you pull off the road. Like this:
So you can imagine the surprise when Barb falls like this:

Holy shit, she's hanging upside down!
Terror and amusement cohabitate my emotional space
This isn't supposed to happen - is it?

Is Barb OK? Well, she's laughing.

The picture above, by the way, is Barb right side up rotated 180 degrees. Unfortunately, this moment was not captured digital though it is deeply imprinted in my memory. What I do have is someone filming the lowering of Barb, still laughing so hard it sounds like high pitched donkey.

You're not supposed to hang upside down when you fall. I don't think any of us (guide included) really know how or why it happened. Barb's harness was a little loose (and as soon as the guide mentioned that I, with both feet on the ground, tightened my harness very much the way I tighten my seatbelt when there's turbulence on a plane. There's that moment of, hmmm, I might need this thing to work).

When Barb "lands" (still laughing) Lindsay tighten her seatbelt (full service guide - later on, she'll put on my shoes!)

My theory is as follows. Barb's natural state is upside down (see pics below). So, when she was "falling" she was like a cat who manages to land on all fours. But instead, Barb lands in a handstand.

Once we got Barb right side up and on the ground Lindsay did make a few adjustments to there course.

Without fear, Deb takes on the course. If I were Deb, this would be my rock climbing profile pic. Totally bad-ass, no?
And then I'm up. I decide to give this one a try with my Vibrams. When I run up hills in Vibrams I can feel my toes curling to grab onto the earth. The first time my toes did this it felt very primal and monkey-like. Monkey's are good climbers, maybe this will help.

Turns out it doesn't help. Lindsay concludes I need all five toes together as a team. In order not to interrupt my "progress" Lindsay changes my footwear for me. I feel like I'm twelve trying on velcro sneakers at Stride Rite.

The next section of the course involves kinesthetic sensibilities I'm digging deep to find. I'm willing my body, brain and mind to work together.

As awesome as this appears, I am not hanging from the ceiling of a rock formation (though there is something Bat-womanly about it). I just couldn't orient the video, but in this case that worked in my favor. I hate that this ends with me letting go, but this is so much harder than it looks. And, at a certain point, I decided resting while someone else took a turn increased my odds of moving on up the rock.

Note the double belay on this course. If Liz falls asleep on the job (I know her eyes are closed because she is probably laughing) Deb is tied in too.

Liz, the ever patient belay(er)? (verb or noun?) runs up the course.

And just as we're winding down, the rain follows us down the mountain.

Barb's in air handstand was one of the defining moments of the trip. I had a good, deep real (much needed) belly laugh. Though, a small part of me was completely unnerved by that one moment when I wasn't sure Barb was OK and I could sense remnants of my fear in my laughter.

It was one of those moments that you'll laugh about as hard weeks after it happened as you did the moment it happened. I am actually laughing out loud right now just thinking about it. I never use "LOL" in any of my electronic communications or otherwise but at this moment it is apt.

Western North Carolina Adventure Day Three First Climb

I wake up. It's wet. I'm wet, my sleeping bag is wet. Barb and her gear looks perfectly dry. I never known what drives what lap lane, bed, site of the tent Barb wants to be on but now I'm wondering about the innocence of Barb's quirks.

The forecast is a bit dicey for the rest of the day so Lindsay decides to take us to a location that will be suitable under wet conditions. Looking Glass North.

Lindsay prepares to set up our climb. She looks a bit like a Con-Ed worker to me.Lindsay setting up at the very top of the climb.The picture doesn't do justice to the ease with which she ascented and set the course. In fact, there was something alarmingly matter of a factly about it. Lindsay has a combination of expertise, confidence and chillness that makes me forget all the risks assumed when signing REI's 17 page waiver. From the ground, we're fascinated.

So, here's the thing about day one, climb one. Getting off the ground is the hardest part of this climb (it's also a little wet and that doesn't help). Lindsay shows us a "hand jam." I'm going to botch her explanation here (I know I have already mixed up some terminology) but the trick is to stick your hand into a crack and then push out against the sides of the inside of the crack and well, your hand is jammed in there. Lindsay makes it sound and look easy but we all struggle with it and need some sort of leg up. It doesn't help that it's the very first move we've got to master but we all start with gusto.

Deb is up first. Trying out this hand jam thing.See that little spec up top? That's Deb.While Deb is climbing I am using her two day old Android phone to take pictures of her. She has very little programmed in there so I change her wallpaper to a picture of her rock climbing and play with a few other settings. This is outdoor adventure at it's finest.

Next up, Barb. I can sense how keen she is to conquer this hand jam thing. In fact, she cheers before she starts.Jamming her handThen Elizabeth gives it a go. Like the rest of us she struggles with the first part hand jam but before we leave the climb site she is the only one among us to have made it past "Part One" entirely on her own so mad props to Elizabeth. Regrettably there are no pictures.

And then, I'm up.Like the others, I'm thinking "I'll be the one to get this damn hand jam thing. No leg up from Lindsay for me." I'm also the tallest in this group and I wonder if that will help any. I try. And try. And try, willing my hand to jam. It just doesn't quite do it. Damn hand.Eventually, I make it up higher. While this isn't the most flattering of angles for anyone it shows how the rock holds you. I didn't quite grasp the concept of trusting the rock until the next day, but I see it in this picture.Apparently at 50 feet up I'm hilarious. And I curse a lot. I really have no idea what I said so I regret I can't share the laughs with you, reader, but I know my girls were giggling on the ground (If any of you read this and remember, do comment). After the trip Lindsay wrote to us "I near peed my pants Jamie's top notch commentary 50 ft up."

As all of us ascented the resounding remark was something along the lines of "Shit, this is hard" (I was probably the only one who swore when expressing the sentiment but this is my blog, so I describe what I recall). I don't think any of us expected it to be easy, but perhaps the nature of the challenge was different than anticipated.

I was pleased with the extent to which my brain and body connected and made the moves happen as Lindsay described. I was able to listen, process and respond and the integration of skills and everything working in Concert felt fantastic.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Western NC Adventure Day Two

The town's most cleanest hotel in the town has a nice continental breakfast and Barb and I load up. Our itinerary this morning?

12 miles.

A run (Barb) & a ride (Jamie) near Lake James. Did I feel a little lame only riding as many miles as Barb ran? Nope. Earlier that week I biked as many miles as years I have lived. And, I'm not training for a 50 mile race either. Had it taken me as long to ride the same distance Barb ran, some lameness would have been warranted. I finished my 12 mile ride with a respectable amount of time left over to read a book while sitting on a beach by the lake.

This post is low on pics so here's a pic of Lake James, or some body of water on the approach to the ride/run site.When wev'e both finished up our respective workouts we pop in the lake (in our workout clothes), race back to the Hampton Inn to clean up (because the hotel is that clean) and we're on to Asheville. I've been a few times before but never in my car. I-40 gets a little mountainous towards the end of that trip and wheeee that was a lot of shifting for the freeway.

We park in a space with a meter but there is no indication of the rates or hours for the spot. Out of nowhere, an older woman appears with all the parking information about Asheville one could want. But then she starts randomly talking about her cell phone plan. I feed a few more coins into the meter in case I've been misinformed.

And then it rains. Ah, rain. After laughter, that would be the second theme of the trip (we don't know this yet). But it's just a drizzle.

Now, Barb and I are both pretty on top of it type people but neither one of us has as much information on the REI adventure as we would like in part because it wasn't available online and in part because we didn't have time to investigate further (we were busy finding a clean hotel).

Our first question is what time do we have to show up at REI. There was a four hour gap between the times Barb and I recalled so we look for internet and end up at a neat little coffee shop.

My second question was less straightforward, but probably more crucial in terms of reducing my stress level. How far away was I going to be from my car? Were we leaving our cars at REI and driving as a group to a campsite? Was it car camping? Pack in, pack out? There were several things we brought for the trip that wouldn't be needed on this leg but I was wary of leaving them too far behind (my bike our computers, etc). That's the logistical, rational part.

The other part of my concern is harder to admit, but honest. I needed to know how removed I was going to be. I'm not talking about not having access to email or Word With Friends on my i-Phone (even though at present I haven't returned any moves on all my games in weeks). It goes a little deeper than that.

I went to summer camp for 13 years and slept in cabins, tents, under the stars without much access to the outside world. And that was the joy of the experience. Camp was my world.

Two years ago I upped the ante on intrepidness and attempted to hike Mt Kilimanjaro. That was five nights on a mountain in east Africa at high altitude combined with anti-Malaria drugs with side effects I did not tolerate well with no proximity, let alone access to the outside world and only my sister for comfort and conversation.

It was too much for me.

In fact, at the end of the trek I donated a lot of my equipment in part out of charity, in part to lighten my load but in part because I never saw myself being that far out in the "wilderness" again.

Western NC is a far cry from Africa but still I was just a touch nervous, mostly because of not knowing what to expect.

So back to the REI logistics. We log onto our computers in the coffee shop and learn that we have to be there at 6:30. Which was neither of the times that Barb and I remembered but do-able. We do wonder where the other times we remembered came from though.

I take the remaining time in the coffee shop to read about the details of the trip and get more info about the aforementioned logistical questions and concerns.

I read the following line in the description "Trip takes place rain or shine" and I kid you not - at that very moment there is thunder, lightening and torrential downpour. Without saying a word Barb and I look at each other and just start laughing hysterically. That is why I know we will have fun rain, or shine, or thunder, or flooding. That is why we are friends.

We know we need to get dinner, and coffee shop muffins just aren't going to cut it. Barb looks online and finds a place called Earth Fare. There's something vaguely familiar about the name, but heck, there are tons of crunchy markets out there and I can't place it. Then we have to figure out how to get there which presents another challenge when Barb is navigating.

We get on the highway but between the rain and construction Google maps on our iPhone fails us. But, my memory does not. I have been to Earth Fare in Asheville when I was in Asheville for Lindy Focus. And all I need to see is the edge of the kinda depressing concrete shopping mall from the highway and I find it. Thanks goodness for me.

Hooray! Victory. The place looks dark, though. But it's not closed, because there are tons of people outside. I joke "maybe the power went out." But when we attempt to enter the store and realize I was spot on. Power out. Closed.

We're troopers, we're not discouraged. We'll settle for something a little less healthy but decide to head towards REI and keep our eyes open for options.

Back on the highway. It's still raining like we should be on the lookout for an Ark. Barb, ever the optimist says "Here's what's going to happen. It's going to rain like this for five more minutes and then it's going to clear up." Amazingly, we do get out from under the storm cloud in about that amount of time and go from torrential downpour to a sunny day. If Barb rubbed a lamp and talked to a genie that day I wanted to discuss options for wishes #2 and #3 because it could not have been her will alone that caused a dramatic shift in the weather like that.

We grab pizza for dinner. Beer for Barb. And a Xanax for Jamie, washed down with a glass of wine.

Onto REI. First we meet Lindsay. She isn't wearing an REI shirt, or pin, or hat on anything (I, on the other hand was dorky enough to wear the REI Adventures t-shirt that had been mailed to me earlier that week. Remember, summer camp. 13 years. uniforms) but it only took a second to figure out she was the guide based on her chill, calming presence. And she has really curly "boing thought Ramona, boing" hair which I also liked.

Then Deb shows up. Deb is from Portland, OR. I have an affinity for Portland OR so I immediately have an affinity for Deb. And then Elizabeth arrives. She's a little quieter than the rest of us but is clearly "good people."

So far, I'm liking the group. Then, we learn, are the group. And that we'll be driving to the campsite. I'm thrilled. Small group, all women and car nearby. And, it's not raining (at the moment).

Lindsay asks if any of us need any additional gear. The marketing person in me thinks it's brilliant to start the adventure in the REI Store. Earlier, Barb and I discussed the concept of including links to REI gear on the online packing list. In the end, the only thing any of us need in the store before we head out is the bathroom.

We arrive at the campsite.This is total car camping. Showers and civilization around the block. Speaking of my car, which seems to be a character on this triphave I mentioned how much I love the hatchback? None of the pics I took really do justice to just how much the thing can hold but this is a lengthy, rambly post with tangents that needs another picture.We grab some chairs and sit near the firepit. I have a camp chair from REI I like so much, it actually resides in my living room at home as additional seating to my really uncomfortable couch. I have brought this piece of home with me and given the ease and flow on the conversation with the team, I feel like I could be at home my living room.

Until we all feel a little drizzle. With that, we retreat to our tents.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Western NC Adventure Day One

This is how Barb and I are spending the weekend. It's 4:52 so the REI part hasn't even started but the adventure part definitely did - probably when Barb got off I-40 and forgot she was driving a stick shift and figured all the noises the car was making were rumble strips.

Our first night (8.12.10) was in Morgantan. Barb diligently researched hotels and learned from the Chamber of Commerce that the Hampton Inn was the cleanest hotel in town. Interesting standards. While Hampton Inn is a chain they have a few random touches that seem like an attempt to give it a bit of a boutique feel. Our absolute favorite was this poster in the elevator.

I'm sorry but it looks like the man has drowned. Live a little, but never swim alone. Speaking of swimming when Barb and I swim she is very deliberate about what lane she wants to be in. I have a feeling she'll be choosing which full size bed she wants to sleep in. She does. Fortunately, I am indifferent about such things.

We get directions to an Italian restaurant "downtown" and are told to drive past the restaurant because finding street parking can be tricky.

Yeah, real tricky. As usual, all we could do was laugh, which kind of becomes the tone for the weekend.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Undercover Heathens

Note to readers If you are deeply religious, you might not find this funny. I would designate it as "Respectfully Irreverent." What I really found most entertaining about this whole museum/gift shop whatever was the complete lack of coherence and connection between displays. Maybe I just didn't get it (always a possibility with me) but this really did seem pretty damn, er, darn random.

I try to make it a point to explore and delight in the "attractions" of wherever I land. I have a book called "Day Trips from RDU" with one "place to visit" earmarked. This. Today turned out to be the day I made the trip with another adventure seeking pal, CB (name abbreviated due to the slightly irreverent nature of this whole excursion).

My money trap, I mean, my Saab was in the shop today so I was promised a loaner. It was the most underwhelming sedan ever, with a kind of funky smell. But, whoever used it last left in a CD called "Birthday 2003" that sounded more like wedding music one would play in 2003 and that was highly entertaining.

We made a quick stop another equally quirky location en route - Critters Corner. Note CB's attire. Short of a bike, remind you of anything? The outing also gave this CT girl a reason to wear her pearls - keep an eye out for them later.

Our destination was located in Southern Pines. As soon we get on this road, it became quite clear why. I am a big fan of trees that feel like a canopy.

The guidebook had double billed the museum as both a "Museum of Creation" and "Taxidermy Hall of Fame." After one of two display cases CB and I guessed that this was all just shit from someone's basement with loosely correlated bible quotes to accompany them.
Jamie checking out the knight's, um friends?

Here we come!

Ok, so the random picture of Ronald Reagan was the first tip off there might not be any sort of thesis to this museum.

I think CB and I were both equally delighted by the randomness. There were far more pictures and hilarity that I will be able to post and share. Some higlights, however.

Bibles and traffic signs

I think my absolute favorite was the display labeled "False Gods Worshiped In Place of the Creator." Here's our audio commentary.
Click here to listen to memo.mp3

Chick-fil-A in this museum I kind of understand. Golf, I do not. Unless you subscribe to golf as religion, which many do. But still.

It just kept on getting curiouser, and curiouser, as Alice might say. Plumber's first wireless phone?!

Jamie contemplating the wall of can openers.

Let's just have some of the pictures speak for themselves. Because, really, it was hard to know what to even say or think. Undertakers saw, used to cut off the ring fingers of the deceased. For real.

Jamie bonding with her alter ego, the pirhana (CB was taking the pics so therefore is in less of them).

Blissfully unaware of the world's largest Beanie Baby hovering above.

Stuffed beaver. Too bad this is a museum, not a yard sale.

Affirmation that CB and I are not an accident of nature.

What we consider buying from the gift shop. But don't.

(I had to pin my shirt by the way because it was too boobalicious otherwise).

We did make an admission donation though because we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. And heck, perhaps salvation is for sale.